|The Concord Journal|
|Performances evoke sense of the '70s in Concord Players' 'Equus'|
|By Parkman Howe|
The Concord Players rounded out a strong '87-'88 season with a superb production of Peter Shaffer's Equus. The play concerns both a young boy's self-destructive obsession with his horse-god Equus and his psychiatrist's professional crisis over the uses of passion and reason.
Peter Yoemans, who played the lead in the Players 1986 production returns to give a magnificent performance as one of contemporary theatre's most challenging roles. His Alan Strang is by turns obscene, witty, furtive, passionate and inspired. We never quite know what this Alan will do or say next. Yoemans' attention to accent and mannerisms, the speed with which he reverses emotional direction, and his physical commitment to the role make his acting a joy to watch.
Russ Robbins in the role of psychiatrist Martin Dysart gives a powerful portrayal of man hungry for divine contact. His Dysart aspires to a spiritual domnance which knows few scruples. It is hard to believe he is ever "finicky" or takes booked-in-advance vacations to Greece, "suitcase crammed with Kao-Pectate." His professional and personal questions mask the convictions of a man who has made his mind up beforehand. The delicacy of self-doubt disappears in Robbins' confidence as an actor.
Nevertheless, one of the pleasures of this production lies in the battle of wits and wills between patient and doctor portrayed by these two talented actors.
Director Michael Allosso does a superb job with the stylized, highly theatrical nature of the play. The chorus of horses makes entrances and exits with ritualized fatality.
The evasions and confrontations of the play find expression in the blocking, lighting, costumes (especially the fine horse-head masks) and set design. One has to see a play in order to understand it; this is especially true of Equus.
The secondary characters also give fully realized portraits. Tim SDcranton as the horse Nugget remembers those small equestrian gestures which we have forgotten. David Larsen-Jarratt and Louise Hannegan as Alan's parents show us the frustrations of people who live alone together.
Andrea Southwick strikes just the right balance of sexuality and sincerity as Alan's first love, Jill. Peggy Whitefield renders a notably eccentric Nurse. Susan Ellsworth as Hester Salomom and John Cross as Harry Dalton, together with the chorus of horses played by John Dunn, Steve Braddock, Larry Lickteig, Vincent Pellino and Scott Dedrick, round out a strong cast.
Shaffer wrote Equus in the early 1970s, a time when passion and commitment often outran reason. The play reflects its times.
Alan's creativity and inspiration might be admirable, but his malicious behavior is not. That a psychiatrist could seriously consider Alan as a role-model is one more sign of our evil times.